Goethe gets back to Rome


Rumor has it that Johann Wolfgang (von) Goethe has reappeared in Rome, in the district “Statuario”.

Many people spotted the well-known painting of Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, in the reinterpretation wanted by the street art artist Gaia on the walls of Hotel Capannelle Appia Antica. The monumental “Painting of Goethe in the Roman Campagna”, in the possession of the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, shows the writer in a contemplative solemn pose on the background of the Ancient Appian Way, among the ruins of sculptures, aqueducts and with the profile of the Roman Castles in the distance.

The US artist Gaia only wanted to sketch Goethe’s profile, encouraging visitors to interpret it in the most different ways. Gaia is a careful observer and draws his inspiration from surrounding environment for the realization of his works of art.

He left out the figure of Goethe on purpose, in order for the spectator to concentrate more attentively on the landscape elements which outline the Hotel. In the cycle “Mobility”, the recall to Goethe is not casual, Gaia wants to open a new window on Italy, relying on the impressions of many foreigner artists who decided to visit the “Fair Country”.

Goethe, who loved Italy, wrote this beautiful lines to describe the land where lemons bloom:

“Know’st thou the land where lemon-trees do bloom,
And oranges like gold in leafy gloom;
A gentle wind from deep blue heaven blows,
The myrtle thick, and high the laurel grows?
Know’st thou it, then?
’Tis there!  ’Tis there!
O my belov’d one, I with thee would go!”

In Rome, under the false name of Philip Moeller, he lodged in a pension in via del Corso n.18 with other fellow countrymen. In the house of the German poet, which in 1997 became a Museum, a library and a well-known cultural centre, in the very room where he stayed, it is still possible to admire the gypsum cast of Juno Ludovisi (1st century CE) which every morning cheered his awakenings and which he defined “as an Homer’s poem”.

His Roman life unfolded between cultural errands, studies and visits to ancient monuments; he spent time with the neoclassic painter Angelica Kauffmann, in the Caffè Greco and in the literary places dear to the German travelers; he is literally enchanted by the beauty of Campo Vaccino (name with which the ruins of the Fora where defined, as they had become a grazing land), by Colosseum’s magnificence, by the charm of the piazze and of the Roman Villas, which he often portrayed in his delicate watercolors.

He is dazzled by the paintings in the Sistine Chapel, mainly by the works of Raphael in the Vatican Rooms, which he considered as being the apex of figurative art and of sculptural proof of the antiquity, possessed by the Vatican Museums, towards which he showed interest under the interpretative guide of the archeologist Winckelmann.

Between studies and several occupations, he got even time to fall in love with a landlady of the Osteria della Campana, in vicolo Savelli, whose name was Faustina, to whom are probably addressed some verses of the “Roman Elegies”.

At the centre of his most renowned masterpiece, the epistolary novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther”, there is the very love which appears as something not worldly, something not easily understandable for the human reason.

[…] Wilhelm, what is the world to our hearts without love? A magic lantern without light.
You have but to set up the light within and the brightest pictures are thrown on the white screen… »